Grab some popcorn and watch ‘Defending Jacob’: It’s worth it


Photo Courtesy of the LA Times

‘Defending Jacob’ stars Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery.

Lauren Reid, Content Editor

Produced by Apple TV+ and based on the crime drama novel Defending Jacob by William Landay, ‘Defending Jacob’ is flawlessly suspenseful, cryptic and emotional, as parents Andy (Chris Evans) and Laurie (Michelle Dockery) Barber grapple with the fact their son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) could be a murderer.

Evans’ Andy is a Massachusetts district attorney assigned to the murder case of Ben Rifkin (Liam Kilbreth) — Jacob’s classmate who was stabbed to death at a local park. Unbeknownst to Andy that his own son will soon become the prime suspect, he pinpoints a potential suspect, sexual predator Leonard Patz (Daniel Henshall), but can’t gather enough evidence to connect and question him. 

After perusing online forums, Andy discovers Jacob’s friend Derek (Ben Taylor) commented, accusing Jacob of owning a knife and murdering Ben. When Andy goes to search Jacob’s room, he finds a knife in his nightstand drawer. Jacob insists he’s innocent, but Andy and Laurie wrestle with the truth.

The miniseries continues to explore the Barbers’ increasingly unimaginable family dynamic, their isolation from normalcy and the push to face impossible obstacles.

‘Defending Jacob’ features an extremely unpredictable plot — as characters and viewers jump back and forth between what to believe. With a huge ending twist, there’s absolutely no way to anticipate what’s ahead.

Evans, Dockery and Martell are phenomenal throughout the eight episodes — at some moments they seem a happy, content and loving family, but it’s clear they’ve been confronted with a situation that will never fade, regardless of the outcome.

Martell is perfectly suspicious as 14-year-old Jacob, maneuvering between fear, confusion and any emotion a teen would understandably feel in his position.

Every character has a purpose and every scene has you glued to the screen.

As someone who can’t binge watch well at all (hello, 10 p.m. bedtime), I really appreciated the length of the show. There’s more than enough time for every character to grow and develop, and every plot point to be addressed — but the show never drags on.

More than anything, I loved being in the dark alongside most characters in the show. As much as I wanted to know who killed Ben and why, I liked being skeptical of Jacob, or reassured by him, along with his parents, classmates, etc. It allowed for an optimal environment for twists and turns — all of which were absolutely nuts, by the way.

The setting was gorgeous too. Taking place in Newton, Massachusetts, everyone seemed to have their life together. The irony of the beautiful home, kitchen straight out of HGTV and “picture-perfect” family added a creepy, enigmatic feeling.

Overall, I highly recommend checking this one out. It’s equipped with all the elements of a good mystery, but the family component makes it so much more personal. When you start to feel bad for the parents of a potential killer or even the suspect himself, you know the writing is good.

Rating: 5/5 stars